Raise your hand if you were at Sommer Schnell last weekend.
Keep your hand up if it was your first time on track.
And keep your hand up if you are already making plans for your next HPDE event.
What was it about Sommer Schnell that will bring you back? The interesting cars? The sounds and smells of engines and brakes pushed close to the limit? The science of the friction circle (who can resist a good friction circle discussion)? The singular focus required to drive fast on a track? Doing something that pushed you outside your comfort zone? The people you met? All of these things and more?
Almost everything listed above keeps me coming back to the track (the friction circle not so much), but it is the people and community I have come to appreciate the most.
At each track event I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. It is fun to check event registrations from time to time to see who is attending and being pleased to the see names of people I have not seen for a few months. Noting those that are missing and maybe sending a text or email to find out why they are not coming and encouraging them to register. And when arriving at the entrance to Brainerd, it is comforting to greet the same friendly and cheerful woman each morning when she hands out wrist bands and obtains signed waivers.
The track community encompasses more than friendship. I am both surprised and not surprised by the selflessness of the North Star BMW, Audi Club Glacier Lakes, and Nord Stern members I have met and driven with. Everyone is willing to share knowledge, experience, tools, and their time to help out a fellow driver. That can be by helping to better understand a particular driving technique. Or by answering questions about tires or brakes or a mechanical issue. Sometimes it is by offers to help get a car ready for an event when you are not able to do so yourself. By far the most remarkable act of help was when a club member spent an entire day fixing another driver’s car so it could be driven home from a track that was five hours away!
Becoming an instructor in the past year has allowed me to interact with newer drivers (myself from a few years ago) and to help introduce them to and foster their interest in a sport that continues to captivate me. Seeing and hearing their enthusiasm reminds me of the time my instructors took with me when I first started and how important that was for me to find my place in the community.
So, for a sport that is generally regarded as an individual endeavor, just a driver and a car, there is a significant element of community that keeps it going and keeps many of us returning to the track. I encourage you to join and keep it moving forward.
Cameron Parkhurst lives in St. Paul and wishes he had gone go-karting when he was five.